Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Time to wield the big stick

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 18th, 2022 at 10:43:24 AM EST

The Boris Johnson government has once again signalled its intention to break international law and its treaty obligations to the EU by introducing domestic legislation to over-ride parts of the protocol and to annul the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over protocol related matters. This is in addition to its current unilateral and illegal extension of grace periods on protocol implementation and its failure to honour agreements on data sharing and building facilities for goods inspections.

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N. Ireland Protocol receives democratic mandate

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 9th, 2022 at 12:03:50 PM EST


DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and his party are ignoring the democratic mandate of voters in the North.

The Irish independent has published my letter pointing out that the Protocol now has a democratic mandate in N. Ireland. Democracy needs to precede tribal bias against protocol

[Update] The Irish Times has now published the letter as well - and their sub-editor didn't mess with the text, so it reads better. (Fourth letter down).

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Expelling Russia

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 7th, 2022 at 11:20:41 AM EST


A Russian TV station this week broadcast video simulating the effect of nuclear weapons being detonated off the coast of Ireland, in a report introduced by Dmitry Kiselyov (pictured)

What more provocation do we need before we break off diplomatic relations with Russia?

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Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

by Frank Schnittger Tue May 3rd, 2022 at 08:19:33 PM EST

Voters in N. Ireland go to the polls on Thursday 5th. of May to elect a new Legislative Assembly. The election takes place on the same day as local elections in Britain which could prove disastrous for the Tories, as it represents the voters first chance to vent their disapproval of "Partygate", high inflation, and endemic Tory cronyism and corruption.

In N. Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and their allies in the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party and loyalist paramilitaries have tried to make the Protocol to the UK/EU Withdrawal Treaty the main issue. They even collapsed the last Executive (aka N. Ireland devolved government) over the issue and have threatened not to allow a new Executive to be formed unless the Protocol is scrapped or radically reformed.

They claim the Protocol creates a sea border between Britain and N. Ireland, and thereby diminishes their "Britishness". The fact that it also gives  N. Ireland preferential access to the Single Market many in Britain would die for gets lost in the waves of emotion they have created around the issue.

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Hungary and the EU

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 6th, 2022 at 11:38:39 PM EST

The Irish Times: Hungary and the EU

A chara, - Hungary and Serbia have just elected Putin allies into government. That is their democratic right, even if the elections weren't conducted by fully democratic means. However, there is no reason why the EU should tolerate a state of affairs whereby EU money is funnelled to the cronies of oligarchic leaders who give aid and comfort to our enemies. Any discussions about Serbia joining the EU should now end.


The EU should also invite Viktor Orban to trigger Article 50 and leave the EU. Failing that, the EU should trigger the enhanced cooperation mechanisms for fully supportive and democratic EU member states. A bit like the Euro Group, which only includes euro zone members, these mechanisms enable further cooperation between willing states over and beyond what countries like Hungary are willing to support.

Any incremental EU spend should only be directed through this "new enhanced cooperation" EU. Gradually, as the "new" EU develops, it can shed the "old" EU, Hungary included, as so much dead skin. The current EU budget could be the last, with all new shared funding being directed through the new EU. The new EU should also have greater enforcement powers for European Court of Justice decisions, and more use of weighted majority voting, to prevent one or two members holding the rest to ransom.

It's time we stopped faffing around with would-be dictators who undermine the democratic freedoms of EU citizens. When it comes to an existential crisis like Ukraine, we need to be clear on who is for and against the development of a greater and more democratic EU. It is clear that Putin (who supported Brexit) and his supporters are now our enemies. It's time the whole structure and membership of the EU reflected that. - Is mise,

Discuss...

Comments >> (12 comments)

Russian war aims in Ukraine

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 4th, 2022 at 06:23:45 PM EST

As the Ukraine war progresses there has been much confusion over what Russia's real war aims are especially as these appear to have changed as the realities of fierce fighting on the ground have caused them to re-group. Yesterday RIA Novosti, a Russian state media outlet, published a lengthy piece by Timofey Sergeytsev entitled What should Russia do with Ukraine outlining their war aims. (h/t - Andy Thornton). What follows below  are some of the highlights in an English translation of the full article.

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The determinants of N. Ireland's political future

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 22nd, 2022 at 05:12:15 PM EST

Debate about the constitutional future of N. Ireland tends to revolve around internal factors like demographic trends, relative economic advantage, and the dysfunctional state of current political arrangements. But N. Ireland doesn't exist in a vacuum and may also be subject to the influence of trends in global, European, British and Irish politics and economics more generally. In this discussion I want to focus on these external factors, and their influence on N. Ireland, rather than on the economic, social and political changes that are taking place within N. Ireland itself.

These external factors may be broadly summarised as follows:

1.    Economic and political globalisation
2.    The growing heft and influence of Ireland and the Irish diaspora.
3.    Economic integration and "Ever closer union" within the EU
4.    The rise of English, Scottish and Welsh nationalism
5.    A return to "the sick man of Europe" for the post Brexit UK economy?

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A "Cleary Defensive" Deployment

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 1st, 2022 at 01:00:59 AM EST

War in Europe - Russia's assault on Ukraine (Seventh letter down)

A chara, - We are indebted to our MEPs Mick Wallace, Clare Daly, Luke "Ming" Flanagan, and Sinn Féin's Chris MacManus for voting against a European Parliament motion condemning the Russian build-up of troops on the Ukrainian border, a vote which was passed by 548 to 69. Mick Wallace and Clare Daly justified their vote on the basis that the Russian troop deployment was "clearly defensive". Perhaps Mick Wallace and Clare Daly could treat us to another one of their famous taxpayer-funded "fact-finding" missions to Kiev to see how Russia's self-defence deployment there is going. No doubt Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky will greet them with open arms and show them at first-hand what a Russian defensive deployment looks like. - Is mise,

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Mary Walshe

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 17th, 2022 at 10:33:24 AM EST

To Mary Walshe:
Goodbye my good friend,
You, who came from a very different place
And went your own way
Even further away
You were a friend to my wife
Who became mine for a while
When she passed away
To a better place
I was grieving her loss
Unable to see very far
And when you went to Chicago
I couldn't follow you there
We spoke for a while
In desultory calls
As the links slowly dissolved
Between your world and mine
You seemed troubled there
Unsure of your place
Your principles destroyed
By the need to survive
You wanted your space
So I let go of you then
And I haven't followed you since
Though you remain in my thoughts
I hope you have found
The peace that eluded you here
As a comet in the night sky
Passes us both
As our connections are lost
in a cloud of cosmic dust
as our feelings of trust
have moved on to the heavens
and so I say goodbye
to my long lost friend.

Comments >> (2 comments)

The Benefits of Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Sun Feb 6th, 2022 at 03:09:53 PM EST

The `benefits' of Brexit

On the same day that Boris Johnson was dismissing multiple calls on him to resign after Sue Gray's "Partygate" synopsis, the UK's cabinet office quietly slipped out a 105 page document called "The Benefits of Brexit". It was almost as if it didn't want anyone to read how exactly Britain was "capitalising" on its exit from the EU. So which dividends was it trumpeting?

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Clever devices

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 4th, 2022 at 01:46:14 PM EST

Published in the Irish News as its lead letter:

‘Clever devices' may not be the sole preserve of Donaldson's DUP

Writing in the Irish Times, Newton Emerson notes that Jeffrey Donaldson has brought in [former DUP leader] Peter Robinson as an adviser, as he is allegedly good at coming up with "clever devices". (When will the DUP level with the public? Opinion & Analysis, 27th. January). The new strategy apparently involves the DUP collapsing the institutions after the May assembly election if they don't get their way on the Protocol. However, clever devices may not be the sole preserve of the DUP. /cont.

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My Bloody Sunday

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 30th, 2022 at 03:31:09 PM EST

I'm republishing this diary, first published in 2010, on the 50th. anniversary of Bloody Sunday, one of the worst atrocities which kick started the war in N.Ireland.

(Now also available on Booman and in Orange where a member of the family of one of those killed has commented).

Bloody Sunday was for me one of those life defining events, to be remembered a bit like the day JFK was assassinated, Nelson Mandela was freed, and I first heard Neil Young's "Harvest" and "After the Gold Rush" holed up in some Lexington, Virginia attic after some kind students had offered me a lift and a place to stay for the night as I was hitch-hiking my way down the east coast of America in 1973.

I was a student in Trinity College Dublin at the time of Bloody Sunday in 1972, not very happy with myself, my course, or the world into which I had been born. The world seemed to be a place where the powerful did more or less as they pleased, and the little people always got squashed. Paratroopers firing dum-dum bullets at unarmed civil rights marchers seemed to capture that feeling perfectly. I was enraged, and could do absolutely nothing about it.

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My Bloody Sunday 1972

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 30th, 2022 at 03:28:26 PM EST

I'm republishing this diary, first published in 2010, on the 50th. anniversary of Bloody Sunday, one of the worst atrocities which kick started the war in N.Ireland. (Now also available on Booman and in Orange where a member of the family of one of those killed has commented).

Bloody Sunday was for me one of those life defining events, to be remembered a bit like the day JFK was assassinated, Nelson Mandela was freed, and I first heard Neil Young's "Harvest" and "After the Gold Rush" holed up in some Lexington, Virginia attic after some kind students had offered me a lift and a place to stay for the night as I was hitch-hiking my way down the east coast of America in 1973.

I was a student in Trinity College Dublin at the time of Bloody Sunday in 1972, not very happy with myself, my course, or the world into which I had been born. The world seemed to be a place where the powerful did more or less as they pleased, and the little people always got squashed. Paratroopers firing dum-dum bullets at unarmed civil rights marchers seemed to capture that feeling perfectly. I was enraged, and could do absolutely nothing about it.

Read more... (25 comments, 2129 words in story)

Normal politics in N. Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 25th, 2022 at 05:57:51 PM EST

On Saturday a newspaper poll indicated that Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie was the most popular party leader in Northern Ireland. That evening he tweeted a joke about Edwin Poots and his wife which can at best be described as in poor taste. This drew attention to a series of derogatory tweets he had made over the past 10 years referring to women, Muslims, members of the Travelling community and people with mental health issues. He has offered to resign and if he does so, it will result in the fourth leader the UUP have had in just over 2 years, beating the record of the DUP in this regard.

Read more... (7 comments, 242 words in story)

World Wide Electricity Super-grid

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jan 21st, 2022 at 12:32:48 PM EST

There has been much discussion of our electricity deficit and of the need to go nuclear to address the intermittency of wind and solar energy. However, fourth generation nuclear reactors, even if they prove to be safe and viable, won't be with us for many years, so we need to start now on a more immediate solution.

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Mandatory vaccination

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jan 17th, 2022 at 12:45:50 PM EST

My letter in the Irish Times

Not allowing the unvaccinated into crowded places where the risks of cross-infection are high is no more onerous than not allowing the intoxicated, unlicensed, or uninsured to drive. It is done to protect the general public from a greater risk of harm. Entering a pub or stadium is no more a human right than driving a car.


Compulsory vaccination is likely to be a counter-productive policy with little benefit when over 90 per cent of the eligible population are voluntarily vaccinated in any case. But placing restrictions on where the unvaccinated can go is not an impairment of their human right to bodily integrity; it is a vindication of the human rights of others to be protected from unnecessary risk of harm.

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Political Sectaranism in Northern Ireland today

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 11th, 2022 at 11:53:50 PM EST

Unionist sense of entitlement still exerted in UK politics

In 1933 Basil Brooke, later Lord Brookeborough and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said the following: "I appreciate the great difficulty experienced by some of them [Protestants and Orangemen] in procuring suitable Protestant labour, but I would point out that the Roman Catholics are endeavouring to get in everywhere and are out with all their force and might to destroy the power and constitution of Ulster."


A few days ago, in comments later endorsed by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, former Labour minister Baroness Hoey wrote: "There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence on those in power".


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Alcoholism and drink prices

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jan 10th, 2022 at 08:31:05 PM EST

Like nearly all countries, Ireland has an addiction problem with alcohol, smoking, prescribed drugs, illicit drugs and gambling the chief offenders. Many drugs addicts are "polydrug" abusers, consuming alcohol, prescribed drugs or whatever illicit drugs come to hand fairly indiscriminately. Sometimes the addiction is as much social as physiological or neurological. Sometimes the motivation is as much self-medication or self-harm as pleasure.

The Irish government has just introduced "Minimum Pricing" for alcohol for retail outlets. This will increase the minimum price of (for example) a bottle of wine from €5 to €7.40.

Many aspects of the legislation I can agree with, such as the ban on multipack or 2 for 1 promotions designed to increase purchases beyond what the consumer originally intended to buy. However the minimum pricing itself I think a poorly thought out measure, and so I had a letter published by both the Irish Times and the Independent saying the following:

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The development of the modern "Irish Pub"

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 2nd, 2022 at 08:27:08 PM EST

Being a craft brewing aficionado, Helen wouldn't have approved, but in her honour I have decided to tell a brewing related yarn...

David Gluckman's book "That S*it Will Never Sell" tells the stories behind the drinks he claims to have invented or worked on, including Le Piat d'Or, Aqua Libra, Sheridan's, Tanqueray Ten, Smirnoff Black, Bailey's and many others. The Irish Times published an extract some years ago about his involvement in the development of Bottled Draft Guinness and Guinness Light.

One of the stories I have never seen told anywhere is the development of the modern "Irish Pub" concept, surely one of the greatest marketing successes of all time, precisely because it isn't generally recognised as a marketing story in the first place.

Irish pubs have of course existed for centuries in Ireland and countries with concentrations of Irish emigrants. But it first became a commercial marketing concept in the early 1990's when Guinness sponsored a programme to encourage the development of Irish themed pubs on a grand scale. Today there are many thousands of "Irish Pubs" all over the world, and as a retail category it has become as ubiquitous as an Italian Pizzeria or an American burger joint.

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United Ireland - a marriage of give and take?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Dec 27th, 2021 at 12:40:20 AM EST

Fintan O'Toole has written a piece arguing that Believers in a united Ireland without trade-offs are as bad as Brexiteers. (Regrettably subscriber only). In it he argues that those who believe that a united Ireland will simply be a takeover of the north by the south are as guilty of wishful thinking as the Brexiteers.

So far so good. However he then goes on to compare any such union to a marriage which requires a lot of give and take to work well. I don't think that is a good analogy because there are many different strands of opinion both north and south, and unionists simply have no incentive to engage in any negotiation prior to a vote under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, as any such discussion would only make a vote for re-unification more likely.

The Irish Times has published my letter in response (see also below the fold).

Read more... (43 comments, 873 words in story)
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